GMB urges Thames to import water from United Utilities

GMB has called on Thames Water to secure supplies for London and the South East in the long term by reviving a Victorian plan to bring water in from the west.

Responding to Thames’ Water Resources Management Plan, out for consultation until 29 April, the union promoted the idea, which is covered in the draft plan but not currently on Thames’ to-do list. National secretary Justin Bowden explained: "GMB is calling on politicians and the public to urge Thames Water to be bolder and to move up the priority list a plan first developed by the Victorians to move water from the west of the UK via the Severn and the Cotswold canals and Sapperton tunnel into the Thames.”

He called the transfer a “common sense and financially viable solution,” adding: “This is a win win proposal. Thames Water should accept the water being offered by United Utilities from Lake Vymwy and get it to the Thames via the restoration of the Cotswold canals and Sapperton tunnel.This has the capacity to supply 300 million litres per day and as a bonus, the canals are restored for leisure and recreational use.”

GMB acknowledged the range of proposals Thames has already put forward, which include a 15% reduction in leakage by 2025 and a new reservoir in Oxfordshire in the 2040s. But Bowden said: “It is essential that there is never a repeat of the near miss of the 2012 drought so a belt and braces approach is the right one to rule out the £330m daily costs of failure of inadequate water supply.”

  • Last week Thames Water reported many of its reservoirs have been successfully replenished after a dry year using an innovative live data technique. Steady rain since Christmas has increased river levels in the Thames and Lee and the company has used live data transmitted from Environment Agency monitors which show precise depth levels, to maximise how much water can be pumped without harming the environment. Thames Water said its Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Mary and Wraysbury reservoirs had been severely depleted at the start of December but are now all above 95 per cent full; and its William Girling reservoir in north east London which supplies 3.5 million people was down to 39 per cent full in mid-November but is now approaching a healthy 80 per cent capacity.